The global meetings and events industry came together this week at IMEX America, standing strong with Las Vegas, the show’s host destination and other destinations that have faced disaster and death in recent months.
“During the months, even the week, leading up to IMEX America, it has been so very sad to see the devastation caused by natural disasters in the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico and the tragic loss of life in one of our second homes, Las Vegas,” said Ray Bloom, chairman of the IMEX Group. “At the same time, it has been inspiring to see the resilience of those communities and the supportive fellowship of the industry’s response to those whose regions and cities are now faced with rebuilding—both physically and emotionally.”
Bloom also pointed out that the industry has rallied in extraordinary ways. “It has an ability to come together with determination and resourcefulness unlike any other,” he said. “Importantly, it has the power to pull destinations out of crisis; events and meetings are vital sources of regeneration, re-inspiration and renewal.”
Industry Out in Force
In total, some 3,300 exhibiting companies from 150 countries participated in the show, which opened on Tuesday (October 10) and closes today at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. These suppliers connected with hosted buyers from around the world at what is the largest ever edition of IMEX America.
- all of the world’s largest hotel groups;
- mature- and mid-sized cities from across North America, Europe, South America, Russia, India, China and Africa;
- destination marketing companies;
- convention bureaus and agencies;
- event technology companies;
- and promotional incentive companies.
The show’s organizer reports that 20 per cent of returning exhibitors booked more booth space, and that there were 500 new exhibiting companies and 64 new booths.
Regions and categories that grew significantly this year are:
- Africa and the Middle East, which were up 31 per cent as a result of Abu Dhabi and the Rwanda Convention Bureau exhibiting for the first time;
- Cruise lines increased by 28 per cent thanks to four new exhibitors including Viking Cruises and three expanded booths;
- Technology area was 12 per cent larger due to six new exhibitors including Groups360, PigeonLab Pte, Events Ready and Lead Interaction;
- and the USA/Canada section and hotels section, both up eight per cent because of new and larger booths.
New exhibitors outside the above regions/categories were Memorable Costa Rica, Global Incentive DMC, Hanoi, the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau, Havana Strategies, Prince Hotels and Moscow.
Powering Learning and Innovation
The show also delivered a robust education, which began on October 9 with MPI’s Smart Monday program as well as full- and half-day courses offered by other associations and companies—the new Association Leadership Forum created by ASAE, the PCMA Business School, the Executive Meeting Forum for senior corporate planners, and the new Event Design Certificate course.
Over the course of the show’s four days, attendees had the opportunity to attend sessions and keynotes on a range of topics: safety and security, contract negotiation, meeting format innovation, f&b, technology, and more.
In addition, several feature areas enlivened the show. These included:
- The new Live Zone, which gave attendees the opportunity to same interactive live event experiences such as instant personalized song writing, the first Virtual Reality Photo Booth, and “Sand Selfies.”
- Inspiration Hub, an area sponsored by Maritz Global Events, which used inflatable domes for some seminars and workshops.
- White Space, a place for attendees to chill out, take time to purposefully absorb their experience and to meet with speakers.
- Be Well Lounge, sponsored by Hilton and featuring meditation sessions led by Lee Papa of Mindful Makeovers™
Standing Strong with Vegas
In addition to being out in force, the industry was also out in solidarity. On the first day of the show, some 500 attendees gathered to hear meetings industry leaders speak about #VegasStrong, the campaign created following the tragic shootings on October 1st. Ray Bloom was joined on the Sands Showroom stage by Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International; Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association; David Peckinpaugh, president, Maritz Global Events; and Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
All five expressed their sympathy for the victims of the shootings, and affirmed their support of Las Vegas. They also spoke about the role that the meetings industry plays in helping destinations recover from disaster and devastation, be it caused by nature or man. Bloom spoke about the strength of the people of Las Vegas and other areas affected by disasters, and confirmed that there was no thought given to cancelling or moving the show. Ralenkotter said that no conventions have cancelled and he thanked the convention industry for its faith and encouragement. Murren spoke about the MGM employees who, thanks to the support of the leisure and meetings markets, can focus on healing themselves and the community without the added burden of job loss.
IMEX America will bring an estimated 12,000 attendees to Las Vegas and more than $11.2 million in direct visitor spending. In addition, the attendees and organizations represent millions of dollars in future group business for Las Vegas. The meetings industry is a vital part of Las Vegas’ economy, supporting more than 85,000 jobs and generating an estimated $12.4 billion in local economic impact.